Mottek Archive 2008

My Email Habits

I think it is high time to apologize for my long delays in answering emails. They are in my inbox, and will remain there until answered, but I really have to put in more efforts to answer them faster. You'd wonder with all my attempts at GTD, I would be better in this area... At least, GTD seems to work as designed: Unless I create an "answering emails" project, nothing seems to move forward. So that's exactly what I just did with Nitch. Let's see how it goes!

Old Skool

My current way of working with the Newton to get things done is quite effective, but once in a while, I'm hitting a snag: Whenever I need to jot down larger amounts of data, brainstorm or scribble, my handwriting is getting in the way, as well as the limited size of the Newton's screen size. In the GTD flow, the Newton is very well suited for the more structured phases like defining goals, next actions and projects, and marking actions as complete. But for free form brainstorming, I found it sometimes too limited. nn nnIn those circumstances, pen and paper seems to work better for me. This gives me also a nice excuse to shop around for productivity gadgetry :) I settled on a disc binder for the notes - for the pen, my initial choice was a nice classic Lamy 2000 ballpoint pen. But I always had some reservations regarding ballpoint pens, something just doesn't feel right about them. Which means I'm back to fountain pens, and the world of ink stains ;)!

Goal achieved

Nitch is now at version 2.0.1 uploaded to SourceForge, and the latest major change was to add support for high level goals. I think I need to add some screenshots to the overview page here on 40hz to make things a bit clearer, but in brief, it is now possible to define roles (there is a FlashPoint-like way to switch to different views in Nitch via a folder tab), and add projects as goals for each role. nn nnPlanning goals for roles is usually an activity done at the beginning of the week, with daily adjustments if necessary. Nitch will prioritize actions higher when the associated project is a goal, and it will use a visual highlight for those actions. nn nnI've been using Nitch now for about half a year, and it seems to really hit the sweet spot in terms of managing projects and actions, marking actions as complete, and getting feedback about achievements and priorities. All of that was tremendously helped by the NewtonOS - again, I have to say! It's such a joy to program for it...

Habits and Goals

It seems that I'm joining the ranks of the many who want to combine GTD and the 7 Habits approach by Stephen Covey. When I first approached GTD, one of my concerns was which next action to pick, see for example my use of priorities in Flashpoint. This was however not the most critical point at that point, it was rather how to slice projects into small, actionable items to actually get something done. nn nnNow that I'm getting better at creating next actions and projects (Nitch is working really well!), making the right choice among the actions comes back as an issue. For a while, I have been using ToDo items in DateMan as "themes of the day," but this overlaps with my use of ToDo items for the hard landscape for that day. nn nnWhich brings me to the 7 habits. After re-reading Covey's book, the approach to first define your roles, and then your weekly goals with daily adjustments makes an awful lot of sense. I'm still thinking whether goals can be expressed straight in terms of a set of GTD projects, but overall, integrating this approach into Nitch should be easily doable.

Ruby, Ruby, Ruby, Ruby

I've been working on and off with Ruby in the past, and really like the language. There are some quirks and inconsistencies, but overall, it's still the best of the lot. I'm working with Mac OS X, Windows and Linux, and Ruby bridges the platforms quite nicely, including the user interface layer. Only threads and IO are a bit tricky. nn nnThe project I recently spent most time on is a framework for communicating with the Newton via the regular Dock protocol (it works over serial, Bluetooth or TCP/IP connections). It is in spirit a replacement of the Desktop Connection Library, written in Ruby. I'm using the 40Hz repository on SourceForge to host the Subversion repository in case you want to check it out. It's nowhere usable yet though :) But I can connect cleanly to the Newton, and the next step is to fill in the missing commands to do something useful. nn nnThe purpose of such a framework is to help with the basic use cases of installing packages and dumping data from the Newton, but in a wider context, it would be nice to use it as the basis for synchronization or backup/restore.

Pen Mod

I noticed that writing on the Newton is easier with my rotring Quatto-Pen Data than with the regular stylus, but somehow, the rotring pen has a slight annoying rattle. On the other hand, we have tons of Pilot Super Grip mechanical pencils at work, which feel quite comfortable overall. Well, it seems that with a little bit of drilling and sawing and some super glue, it's very easy to fit the "data" tips of the rotring (or other styluses) into the Pilot pen. And voila, the "Pilot Super Grip Data" is born :)

The reason I got stuck on this was that the Pile of Notes approach works very nicely, it just requires that you write down your thoughts the moment they come up.